X Factor 2014: Mmm… donuts

Time for our regular weekly pivot off what you’ve been saying in the comments, and where better to start than with the 6/4 favourite to win the series, our lovely, cuddly Italian stallion teddy bear, Andrea Faustini.

Caro: “it was interesting how many close ups of Andrea’s tonsils we had… wearing a classic Versace design shirt. Very Italian!!” Gamblebot: “He didn’t get a superstar slot, but the audience was the LOUDEST for him, he’s getting the most social media likes”. Nugg: “Andrea will not win… he is very cleverly being allowed to fizzle out.” Jess: “Did “little italian bear” sound patronising to anyone else?” Curtis: “Did you see how Simon was able to kill the mood without seeming unreasonable. He is the master of manipulation.”

Since before the lives, conventional wisdom among Sofabet’s commenters has been that if producers wish to stop Andrea from winning, one thing they should do is remind us at every turn that he’s Italian. The theory is that in the later stages of the competition, there will then be scope to nudge patriots among the voting public to support a chosen rival by having Simon wheel out his time-honoured “I’d be proud to see you representing Britain on the world stage” routine.

Meanwhile, there will also be many who feel inclined to vote for Andrea in part as a gesture of making him feel welcome here. If producers want to minimise this form of motivation to vote, they need also emphasise repeatedly how much British people love Andrea. It’s another tried-and-tested technique (see especially 2011’s Johnny Robinson) to create the impression that social acceptance is the satisfying conclusion to an outsider act’s narrative arc, and that once this validation has been achieved, further votes become superfluous.

So, as noted by commenters, even though Andrea’s powerhouse vocals this week understandably saw his odds for the win shorten again, it wasn’t hard to discern hints that producers are holding out hope for a slow puncture. This week Mel B introduced Andrea as “my lovely, cuddly Italian”, and informed him during his VT that “you are my Italian stallion bear”. And was his Versace shirt a pizza evidence that they’re also taking subliminal opportunities to associate him with Italy? We wouldn’t put it pasta them.

Then there was the close-up of the teeth and nostrils:

andrea_tonsils

Usually, of course, close-ups are considered to be helpful, in contrast to wide angles. But is the unnecessarily, uncomfortably, invading-personal-space close-up an exception to that rule? The extent of the zooming in at the end reminded us a little bit of this:

wagner_creep

Last week we wrote an article explaining why we don’t think every single word of judges’ comments are scripted. But if there are ever going to be comments that are thought through more thoroughly than most, it will be the most influential judge’s comments to the act who is commonly presumed to be running away with the public vote to the displeasure of TPTB. Here’s what Simon said to Andrea:

Andrea. It looks like Britain has taken our little Italian teddy bear to our hearts. It was a lot better than last week. I mean, the thing about you is, and I kind of mean this as a compliment, is that when I want to eat five donuts, after listening to you it’s like I’ve eaten six, because you put so much into it. Um. But that’s who you are. But it was great. I mean, it was a fantastic, passionate performance.

Let’s parse that, shall we? Obviously, the first sentence reinforces the ideas that he’s Italian and that he’s already won the British public’s acceptance. Then “little teddy bear” is a bit of a demotion in mental image from Mel’s “stallion bear”. “It was a lot better than last week” = “remember it was bad last week”. “I kind of mean this as a compliment” = “I don’t really mean this as a compliment”.

On one level, the purpose of the obscure donuts comment is to puncture the mood without seeming harsh, by moving people from basking in Andrea’s performance to wondering what on earth Simon’s on about. You can read more into it if you’re so inclined. How would you feel after eating six donuts? A bit queasy. It’s too much; hard to digest. Donuts are sweet and tempting, but deep down we know they’re not good for us. We could go on, but suffice to say we suspect this wasn’t just something Simon blurted out as it popped into his head.

Then: “But that’s who you are.” The “but” reinforces the “kind of”, that this wasn’t really  a compliment, as well as suggesting that Andrea can’t change. “But it was great” – that “but” again, qualifying the praise with which the comment ends. If you wanted to push it, you could also note that “passionate” echoes Mel’s use of “passion” in the VT, and that passion is as intrinsically Italian as a Versace shirt.

Her name is Lola, she’s not a showgirl

Dean: “Lola’s journey continues but she’s not a winner. ” Jess: “Lola can’t take pressure, she’s a choker”. Fudd: “They’re going to stay patient for only so long.”

Oh Lola. The audition pimp slots featuring your doting grandparents and fishmongering; the climactic judges’ houses rejection followed by wildcard resurrection; the week 1 critique of your outfit; and Simon’s comment that you’d only shown us 80% in week 2. It was all a build-up to your supposed breakout moment last Saturday. Instead it was the worst fluff since Diana Ross’s penalty kick for the 1994 World Cup opening ceremony.

“I don’t think I’ve had my moment to really shine,” she said in her VT, as a cue for viewers. To further prepare us, she was getting a makeover that was meant to emphasise her humble, down-to-earth nature – as well as the journey she was being taken on – with ‘Pretty Woman’ the background music.

The staging was exemplary: golden lighting; a catwalk; a backdrop of stars shooting upwards, later forwards; and most significantly of all, a curtain of fire – the only one we’ve seen so far this series.

Lola_curtain_fire

There were three long, early cutaways to a highly-focused Cheryl looking entranced.

cheryl_entranced

All supposed to give her the aura of going from last week’s “dark horse” to contender. Except…

Lola started going wrong on the final note of the first chorus, and sent out an immediate distress signal: the deep breath out which has previously been her “tell” that she’s overcome by nerves. This was just before she had to progress along the catwalk to the central plinth.

The rest of the song was rather painful to watch and listen to – she even looked nervous and apologetic being helped off the plinth. Judges’ comments initially refused to acknowledge it. Louis said: “You’re such an amazing singer and the only person who doesn’t know… is you… I know what this means for you. Vote for Lola!” At this point, Lola began having difficulty holding back the tears.

Mel B carried on the theme: “That was stunning… You need to start believing in yourself.” Simon recognised what had happened but started by offering a get-out: “I know you’ve had a tough week at home. The first part of the song worked really well. The big part was a problem… I felt for you.”

Cheryl said she had chosen the song (on which, more later), because the lyrics connected with Lola’s journey: “This is a miracle for you… You don’t know how many people you’re inspiring.” Dermot was upbeat, saying “You weren’t happy with your rehearsal, but you’ve got to be happy with that.” Lola clearly wasn’t.

Dermot tried to show her and us how popular she was by telling the audience, “She’s loved, right?” The camera cut to Louis clapping wildly, which was a cue for Dermot to continue: “You know you’re doing well when you get the orangutan clap from Louis.” (On which, Dermot, isn’t this how Louis claps?) Louis responded: “I love her, I love her, I love her.”

Lola admitted later on Xtra Factor that, as Dermot intimated, her rehearsal had been even more of a mess, forgetting the opening bits of the song. There’s a possibility that Lola had been intended for Saturday night’s pimp slot before fluffing her lines. Unusually strong support in the Betfair outright market had seen her price plummet by Saturday lunchtime. Last year, such a market move, presumably from those in the know, consistently foreshadowed a climactic spot in the running order. The staging also had pimp slot written all over it.

Either way, Lola failed to live up to her billing. Simon called her out in the Sunday results show as sounding particularly bad when he watched the Saturday show back on TV. He looked less than convinced when she was announced safe too. So has the show given up on Lola altogether and, if not, how can she be rehabilitated?

In her favour, the show still looks rather male-heavy, with only two left in the girls category. Producers have set up a nice dichotomy between Lauren’s younger, purer styling and her much-mentioned confidence beyond her years, with Lola’s more mature styling and appeal allied with her self-belief issues.

Trouble is, Lola’s problem with her nerves looks rather fundamental. One would hope the show has a psychologist on its books to help with these issues. But Tamera never overcame similar problems in last year’s live shows, even though she was given more than one chance.

If producers are willing to forgive Lola this missed open-goal, you would think that keeping her static and reprising an audition song might help her feel more at ease. The latter won’t be possible with next week’s Halloween theme, but perhaps she needs to make the decision about what she can sing. Cheryl giving her a Mariah/Whitney song (largely because of the lyrical content) only made Lola’s job harder, and arguably isn’t her ideal style anyway. Occasional Sofabet writer Dug suggested Amy Winehouse would suit her better. In the same ballpark, we’d add Duffy too, especially now she’s had a Duffy-style makeover.

Haenow, what’s with the mixed messages?

Donald: “Thought Ben VT was far from great”. Face: “I suspect Ben has been polling well… hence the de-pimping last night… but done as ‘constructive feedback’”. Eurovicious: “I got slight aggro vibes off Ben in his VT.”

We feel that Ben Haenow’s big strength up to now has been his likeable, easygoing persona and evident humility. So when he VTed, apropos Mel implying he coped wimpily with his illness in week 2, “Maybe she feels that her category are a bit threatened by me”, our instinctive reaction was that this was not good for him. It made him look arrogant.

The VT continued to portray Ben as self-absorbed and overcompetitive, as we saw him worrying about his boring song choice. His cursory dismissal of a show staffer suggesting that he listen back to his rehearsal came across as inconsiderate, in contrast to his mid-performance acknowledgements of the help he was getting from his bootcamp guitarist and judges’ houses backing vocalists.

However, the VT wasn’t all bad for Ben – far from it. We were reintroduced to his girlfriend, whose surprised reaction to Ben’s on-stage mention of marriage plans in the arenas had provided one of the sweetest moments of the audition shows. First we saw her sticking up for Ben’s manliness in not complaining about his throat infection, then we saw them embracing backstage as Ben again mentioned marriage – and after the song, producers cut to her supportive reaction. That all suggests producer intent to help.

Mixed messages continued in the comments. Louis was positivity personified – “what this show is all about… extraordinary voice… one of the people to watch”. Mel mixed praise for the “pitch perfect” vocals with (justified) criticism that he didn’t sufficiently emote; Cheryl was downbeat about the song choice but reminded us of the “love story”, as the camera cut back to Ben’s girlfriend. Then Simon called him an “incredible talent” and potential winner, but said the song choice meant he didn’t stand out and “I wish I hadn’t let you talk me in to that”.

Pimp slots don’t come along every week, and it’s always a worry when an act’s moment in the sun ends on a downbeat note (although, as noted above, it’s interesting to speculate whether Ben might have been swapped with Lola in the running order late on). On the other hand, both Louis and Simon went out of their way to call Ben a nice guy, which almost felt like a conscious effort to repair the damage they realised had been done to his likeability in the VT.

What’s going on? Frankly, we’re not sure. But sooner or later we’ll be approaching the point where this category ain’t big enough for the both of Ben and Jay, who this week got a pitch-perfect VT followed by more overblown praise for his vocals. We still can’t call who’ll emerge on top from those two. Can you?

Let us know your thoughts on this and other matters below.

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88 comments to X Factor 2014: Mmm… donuts

  • Stu

    I think maybe Ben is the one polling the most in the voting? Andrea could have topped it in the first week due to the pimp slot hence why he got a de-ramping last week but his treatment this week didn’t seem too bad – maybe that’s because he didn’t top the vote last week?

    I have a feeling that Ben, Andrea and Lauren (maybe Paul too) are running away with a lot of the vote so far. I’m struggling to see Jay last long but his overly positive treatment baffles me.

  • EM

    Great spot on Lola, it did feel like a last in running order performance. I know the running order is never totally balanced but Saturday’s felt lumpy with clumps of boys and overs performing together (I know there are more boys and overs but even still…)

    Song changing seems to be more of a theme this year. I can never work out if it’s supposed to make you feel positive about the act (knows their own mind, stands up to the judges) or negative (stroppy, who do they think they are). I tend to the former and both Stereo Kicks and Only the Young have gone bottom two after changing song.

    Changing song does give the programme some dramatic tension – will they pull it off? – but if the performance isn’t great then it feels doubly bad.

  • EM

    I know I’ve been banging on about the methods of influence they’ve been using in judges comments. The doughnuts comment is another level.

    Usually the remarks are fairly technical. Like when Mel said you couldn’t hear Fleur sing in the chorus the next time, because you had the suggestion planted in your head, you’re listening the hear if you can make out Fleur’s vocals.

    The doughnuts comment was more akin to aversion therapy. Part of hypnosis to stop smoking is to plant suggestions that cigarettes taste terrible. Next time you try a cig it makes you feel sick.

    Next time you hear Andrea theres every chance some people will feel queasy because the suggestion is planted that he’s like eating six doughnuts. Very clever, maybe even cruel.

  • Heisenberg

    That’s a fascinating pimp slot swap-shop scenario, which could explain Ben’s ‘dead behind the eyes’ despondency. Maybe he had something else lined up for his big moment that had to be sacrificed for this last minute change in schedule. Or, perhaps his VT hints of self-importance are more telling than originally suspected – Brian Friedman said in an interview last year, “week four is when you start to see contestants get a little big-headed.” (source: http://goo.gl/IEhdJI).

    Good news for Paul this week, he finally got some judges’ reaction shots!

    Here’s the week 3 Judge Cam playlist:

    • Seductive Barry

      Did you notice that after his chat with Dermot, instead of exiting stage left as usual Ben took off his earpiece and jogged down to the judges, for what looked like a word with Simon?

  • Heisenberg

    Simon and Stevi visit the Habibis Harvester:

    http://goo.gl/9kQPcb

    • Jessica Hamby

      Brilliant. 🙂

    • EM

      “Simon there were loads of people sitting around a minute ago, why did you ask them all to leave?”

    • Martin

      Oh that’s hilarious. From a camera angle point of view, would it appear as lonely as Habibis did? They’re sat in a corner, so there’s no opportunity for us to see whether it’s a busy restaurant or not – there’s a wall where the camera should be to show us the other side.

      It still looks pretty empty though, It’s probably being used to make Simon and Stevi look like pals rather than to show all the local support for Stevi, the same way that Nicole going to Asda and Greggs was.

  • Jessica Hamby

    T was a poor show on Saturday. I’ve made my feelings about JJ very clear in previous posts and for me he was one of the better performers.

    Lauren, in my opinion was very dull. Technically she’s very good compared to a lot of the others and her voice has a pleasant tone but she didn’t actually do much with it. Perhaps that’s why Happy and Flashdance worked so well for her. Slowing them down and putting Happy in a minor key meabt she didn’t have to interpret the songs or put any emition in. She could be dead pan and let the arrangement do the work. She can’t get away with that much more though unless she wants to be a dime a dozen wistful chanteuse selling consumer goods to the guilt ridden middle classes.
    Fleur was fun but hardly set the place on fire either with her vocal or her dancing.

    Stevi is a bit shit rather than a bit eccentric and does nothing for me. I think I’d prefer him as a bad comic to a bad song and dance man. I know tprb have a long while to work the deramp but at the moment I’m still struggling to see serious, long-term opposition to Andrea.

    • Dean

      I might be somewhat biased Jess as Lauren is probably my fave now and I have money on, but I actually enjoyed her week 3 more than week 2. The beat was definitely more uptempo and I thought vocally in the 2nd half of the song she was excellent. Once again excellent staging for her and the camera was near enough always focused on her which is definitely a positive. For someone her age she is definitely a confident performer.

      Simon said she messed the melody up a bit, which I think was slightly true, but watching over it looks like she was having a fight with putting her microphone on the stand (lol) and that made her go off melody, only slightly.

      • Jessica Hamby

        She’s certainly being treated well but I’m talking more about my personal view of her singing than of her prospects. I keep making the mistake of judging it like a singing competition.

  • BTW, this is an irreverent, off-topic comment, but with the annual talk of X Factor (and SCD) running out of steam, uninspiring contestants, manipulation etc, let’s all still be thankful because things could be much worse – by which I mean, here’s a clip from the big primetime 3-hour big-budget music show that went out this Saturday on Germany’s main channel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oE7nuf4z6SQ

    Yeaahhhhhhh….

  • Henry VIII

    I don’t read all those things as attempts to undermine Andrea on Saturday. The field is poor and he is saving the show. Before seeing this I’d just put a post on the Betfair forum saying why he’s in a similar situation to Sam Bailey.

    I warned here of Lola’s nerves when she was last near this price. Saturday saw her shorten to about 12. Great laying opportunities. She should have spent a year in pubs and clubs before coming on XF.

    Is showing Ben’s girlfriend on VT a good thing? His young women fans may hate her. (A wife is somehow different, it means the man is out of the fantasy sex competition, safe).

    Simon to Ben about changing song:
    On VT “Of course I love that song. I trust you Ben, you’ve got great taste”… “This will be huge. You made the right decision”.
    After song “That was the wrong song for you”.

  • Dean

    The song was too big for Lola, think they believe she can hit nores and rangers higher than she actually can. Defo a great spot on the pimp slot there. Ben’s just didn’t feel like a pimp slot, while looking back Lola had the staging of a pimp slot and Golden moment. That may have been her chance, and she blew it.

    If I had to hazard a guess at a pimp slot for next week it would be Lauren, as a narrative was kind of set up for her to give a big performance this week, or perhaps Stereo Kicks if they want to make sure they do not go back into the B2.

  • Betting variations in the last seven days … in the format … Mon; Fri; Sat post show; Now

    Andrea : 3.6 -> 3.4 -> 2.75 -> 2.6

    Lauren : 4 -> 4 -> 4.6 -> 4.5

    Ben : 6.8 -> 7.4 -> 8.0 -> 9.2

    Fleur : 16.5 -> 20 -> 13 -> 10

    Jay : 17.5 -> 18 -> 22 -> 18.5

    Paul : 15.5 -> 17 -> 18.5 -> 25

    Stereo Kicks : 36 -> 40 -> 23 -> 26

    Lola : 17 -> 15 -> 30 -> 32

    OTY : 28 -> 29 -> 44 -> 80

    Jack : 60 -> 65-> 75 -> 110

    Stevi : 130 -> 150 -> 150 -> 200

    What does this prove? Not a tremendous amount, other than not a lot really happens from Monday -> Friday that affects the odds.

    Warning signs for Ben, Lola and Paul … Ben drifted all week and Paul and Lola has drifted since the show last weekend.

    Positive noises for Fleur and Andrea

    Worrying signs for Lauren backers – other than that publicity story for Ladbrokes, she is not getting money behind her.

    Value? Stereo Kicks could provide laying opportunities down the line given that they have now thrown OTY under the bus and will undoubtedly do everything they can to get SK into the final.

    Ben is also now touching on the value mark, as is Paul. However, there will be a Ben vs Jay vs Paul showdown, probably in two weeks time, where it will become clear who is the TPTB’s main male rival to Andrea.

  • Boki

    We all know that TPTB adjust their plans on the fly if needed based on act polling etc. but I wonder what has the highest priority on that list? If it’s commercial potential does it mean that iTunes numbers are more important to them than number of votes an act receives that week?
    For example, JJ managed to top the chart with his pimp slot which is quite a success while Ben couldn’t.

    • EM

      Boki, I have no figures but I’d reckon the UK X Factor has only made serious money out of Leona Lewis and One Direction and a little money out of JLS, Alexandra Burke and Olly Murs.

      Pop music is a gamble, the TV shows are more of a certainty you get big fees to produce the shows so they will be very much looking to keep the ratings up. To drive them up you need good publicity and decent viewing at the weekend.

      Single sales are never a massive indicator of whether an album will sell or not and it’s albums (and tours) where the real money in music is. However it doesn’t take a genius to work out that someone regularly getting top 20 with their X Factor performances has a better chance of selling an album than someone who scrapes the top 100 every week.

      If there’s an act they think has commercial appeal the best thing they can do on the X Factor is use every trick in the book to get them on as many shows as they can (through voting and judges decisions) as there isn’t much better marketing available than being on one of the biggest TV shows every week.

      Long explanation(!) – my quick answer would be that both sales and underlying votes are important for them to look at.

  • Martin

    It did seem that they were trying to drag Ben down. I agree that it looks as if they’re trying to decide who to get behind – they’ve pretty much given them the same treatment the last few weeks, although Ben had a rougher ride this week with his VT and being told off by his own mentor. I’d imagine that the use of his girlfriend this week was supposed to build on the cute love story that started over the audition process, rather than try to infuriate his female fans. I’d guess that his demographic is the older female, rather than younger teens, and so that demo are more likely to buy into the “aah isn’t he sweet singing this lovely song, whan an ideal boyfriend let’s vote for him” angle.

    Lola is a curious one. I don’t buy the genuine nerves nonsense, I think its being overegged to give her a story and she just buggered up her perfomance. There’s no doubt that the show is trying to make Lola happen, not entirely sure why they want us to like her so much though. She’s an unreliable performer, doesn’t have a particularly distinctive voice and there’s no clear signal as to what sort of music she’d be making after the show. She’s the Rebecca Ferguson of this year in terms of story/journey and the Ella Henderson in terms of vocals. Are they just filling the “female” quota, or actually hoping for her to win? In terms of a female artist, Lauren seems like a safer bet, I just can’t see why they’re ploughing through with Lola, apart from to prevent the show becoming a sausage fest.

  • caz

    The first thing that came to my mind when hearing about the little italian bear and seeing his mouth was this:

    http://www.funonline.in/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/HD-Brown-Bear-showing-his-Deadly-Teeth.jpg

    I love the scene where Stevie asked Simon for his phone number. Simon was pulling faces, so it was pretty obvious that he wouldn’t give it to him. Minutes later we could see Ben on the Phone with someone called Simon Cowell. Pretty bad bullying. I just hope that Stevie is really an actor here and knows what he is doing.

    Ben cam across really aggressive in his VT. I was quite surprised by this 180 degree turn. Either they want him out to help SK (and all other men together with him) or this was meant as a heads up for him for not doing what his master told him (ie wanting his own song).

    I don’t know what is going on there but both Ben and OTY seemed extremely unhappy both during their VTs and during their performance. Best part was when Dermot asked OTY if they were happy now and they clearly weren’t.

    I also don’t quite know where they want to go with the Louis/Simon Storyline. It seems to me that they are constanly undermining Louis credibitilty. What made my alarm bells ring was then in xtra someone was asking if Cheryl would like to have someone from another category. (She said she’d take Fleur) It all ended in a rather bad acted “oh wouldn’t that be a twist ?”. So Simon gets SK to “make it right” and Cheryl gets Fleur ? Not sure.

    I really believe Lola’s nerves problem. I don’t think she is such a good actress to play that. For me she obviously was overwhelmed by nerves and started to choke.

    I guess Jack would be the logical next target.

  • Looking back over the running order, I wonder if Ben and Lola were directly swapped after her poor rehearsal. That way, Andrea would’ve been followed by Ben AND Paul, therefore distracting away from the Italian somewhat.

  • It has to be Lauren’s first pimp slot this week, in my opinion. Last year, Sam Bailey had pimp slots in week 4, 7, 9 and 10 (x2). Stereo Kicks’ sympathy bounce will have been enormous this week just gone (I’d expect to 2nd or 3rd place) so I’d expect their first pimp slot to be saved for the following week.

  • Stu

    I don’t think Lola’s nerves are fake. I definitely think TPTB were backing her but her nerves are getting in the way. She’s definitely going the same way as Tamera last year if she doesn’t sort it out. Both her and Tamera were given so many chances and neither of them have proved themselves.

    Re: Stereo Kicks, I really do believe that the producers are going to look at how they achieved Little Mix’s win and use that for guidance in how to push Stereo Kicks over the finishing line. The problem is that nearly every other act in 2011 was sabotaged in order for Little Mix to run away with the vote. If the producers try the same thing this year, the end result could be extremely underwhelming since SK clearly don’t have the popularity that LM had. Would the producers really try to sabotage the big hitters (Lauren, Ben, Andrea) just so SK can win by default?

    I’m expecting Fleur to have her “moment” in the next few weeks. I think she’s polling similar to Alexandra Burke at this stage (middle of the table) so she’ll need huge pimping in order for her to become one of the frontrunners. She’s definitely one of the producers’ favourites. Last Saturday she was one of the few acts who didn’t get any real criticism whatsoever.

  • Caro

    I like the pimp slot swap scenario. There was something strange about Ben’s expression during his performance that wasn’t there before – he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights, as if he’d had a shock and hadn’t quite got over it yet.

    And Lola was clearly a wreck – the way she flinched when offered help to get off the plinth was uncomfortable. In today’s Daily Mail: Speaking about Saturday night’s performance, she said: ‘I had a complete nightmare, I was terrible. In the rehearsal my voice went and I was panicking because I wasn’t in control of it; that was the main issue and it was just horrible.’

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2810760/X-Factor-backstage-Lola-s-incredible-transformation-Cheryl-Fernandez-Versini-s-13-000-jewels-need-body-guard-hundreds-cans-hairspray-FEMAIL-goes-backstage-X-Factor.html#ixzz3HRdAlzoC

    • EM

      I like the slot swap theory too but it must have been decided a fair bit in advance of the show as changing the phone numbers isn’t a trivial task, they’d need new graphics set up and phone line id bits. It wouldn’t take ages but wasn’t so last minute.

  • The pimp slot is far less effective when the order and phone lines are revealed/open at the start of the show

  • David Cook

    Before the show it looked like it was going to be make or break time for Lola. As it turned out it appeared that they intended it to be make, but it went wrong and it ended up as break. But I think this really brings into question who is making the song choices and why. For the plan to succeed the one thing they had to do was choose a song that she was actually capable of singing – so why on earth did they then choose a song that was so difficult. Lola has a reasonable voice and a reasonable tone, but clearly she has limitations on what she can do vocally. Surely they must know this. I think the nerves are genuine, but what exposed them this week is that she knew she wasn’t capable of pulling it off and started to panic.
    This may be a singing contest but are the majority of people really concerned with the difficulty of what is being sung? In the overall scheme of things it’s not that crucial. Surely if they wanted to boost her why not just choose a relatively safe song, but still with the make-over and staging. If she pulls this off, then can make their OTT comments and it’s job done in terms of the story line – ‘You were a fishmonger now you’re a singer’. Then she moves on to next week with more confidence. Instead they ended up with a mess.
    I’m not just making this point about Lola either – but it’s an obvious example. Song choice is clearly a ‘weapon’ for TPTB, some of the song choices which are made to make people sound poor are clearly deliberate. But it often also appears that they are making the wrong choices for people they don’t necessarily want to fail.

  • EM

    One last thought on Andrea’s doughnut comparison… if a clip of Cowell saying it is on Andrea’s VT before his performance then you know they’re really gunning for him.

    • Alen

      Watch Andrea say in his VT “Doughnut?? I don’t even like that. I only like italian food. My home country is still Italy. Brits can’t cook italian food”. etc

  • eurovicious

    The donuts comment is exactly how I feel about Andrea. It’s just too much.

  • David Cook

    Sometimes I really do wonder where this (the programme) is going. Last year they spent an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to prevent a sixteen year old boy winning. This year it seems that they’ll need to put similar effort into stopping Andrea if they really don’t want him to win. Why do they put through people who they know will do well if they don’t want them to win? On the face of it, would it not have been much easier to put Paul through last year and avoided McNick altogether.
    At least last year they had Sam Bailey who, like it or not, was head and shoulders above everyone else. The problem this year is that it is Andrea who is head and shoulders above everyone, but clearly Simon doesn’t want him to win. I have to say I too have the same problem with him – I know he’s clearly the best singer technically, and he is a likable person, it’s just that I really don’t want to listen to a male singer doing largely female diva songs, and I really can’t take to the way he over embellishes almost everything – it is indeed just too much. It’s got shades of Leah McFall on the Voice – she just never knew when to give it a rest either.
    The issue seems to be that TPTB haven’t yet decided who to give their backing to. Perhaps they themselves are unsure who they want, or possibly even who can, overhaul Andrea on the run in.

    • Henry VIII

      “clearly Simon doesn’t want him to win” is vocalised a lot here but I’ve yet see anyone give any evidence.

      • EM

        Like I regularly say I don’t think they’re too bothered by who wins as long as the top 3 or 4 is credible. If someone is a runaway leader and they’re not that interested in them commercially they might try to knock them down a notch or two but they have to be careful not to savage someone who is popular with the public cos that wouldn’t be good for ratings.

        Sam Bailey is a perfect example of this. Massive public favourite, they tried to dampen her a bit, realised it couldn’t be done subtly so just ran with it.

        • lolhart

          I agree with EM. Previous years have shown that it doesn’t really matter who wins as long as the act who will be Syco’s priority (Olly Murs, One Direction, Ella Henderson) get far enough to be commercially viable. I do think they would have done more to deramp Sam, except Syco clearly weren’t interested in a lot of the other acts except Tamera. And there was no way they could drag her over the finish line even if Paul McKenna had hypnotised the whole British public.

        • eurovicious

          Exactly – they put Sam through and gave her so much time in the audition/bootcamp/JH shows knowing she could win, knowing that an Over hadn’t won in years and years and years, and knowing that teir commercial plan A (Tamera) likely wouldn’t. They test-dampened her in week 2 but otherwise let her head for the finish line and dampened Nick to ensure she would win. Ideally they would have gotten Tamera in the top 4 too but when she proved super-unreliable they had to drop her slightly earlier.

          • They had to pull every dirty trick available to deramp nick and only pulled it off right at the death. Louis and sharon laughing in the Middle of a balad. Candy in the final. And 5 death slots in a row or something stupid like that. No wonder they didn’t put that young Scottish girl through this year

          • How couldi forget the first ever last 4 sing off. The list was endless

  • Looks like there will be a new favourite in the overs market very soon

  • Henry VIII

    I think they could have swapped Lola and Ben too. Plenty of time to change order if Saturday’s rehearsals don’t go to plan.

    The only thing against that idea is that the judges didn’t have back up scripts for Lola in case of a bad performance. Like robots they heaped praise on it.

  • Kermit The Frog

    With talk of TPTB – I think we must remember that there is a clear distinction between TPTB (ITV – Show Producers) and TPTB (Syco – Music Division).

    This creates an uneasy combination –

    Show Producers have the aim of creating an entertaining TV Show that pulls in viewers and allows advertising sales to be hiked up.

    Music Division have the aim of finding a pop act that can sell a product and make lots of money.

    No single act can satisfy the Show Producer aim, while one act can easily satisfy the Music Division aim.

    To give an example of a similar format with only Show Producer aims, we can look at Strictly Come Dancing – their aims are simple in comparison, which of course makes betting more difficult – we know that the winner tends to be a technically proficient dancer, which removes around half of the contestants. However, for this show, TPTB don’t actually care who leaves each week as long as the show remains diverse and entertaining. If all of the women were being eliminated one by one, they’d step in with a bit of manipulation. Likewise, if all the non-white contestants were being eliminated they’d also step in. Again, in the interests of diversity, you could argue that after a run of male winners, they may have hired a definitively weak male line-up last year to sway the result. Yet, for weekly eliminations we struggle to predict as it’s largely at the whim of the public vote (with judge scoring only saving the handful of contestants at the top of the table in the early weeks). Of course, the lack of voting data available means that we cannot track popularity of ‘types’ on Strictly and predict who has an advantage in the public vote.

    X-Factor of course has a team with the above aim, though they also have meddling input from the Music Division, who want to see acts with the potential of satisfying their aim stay in and promote their future career.

    In early years, we assumed that only acts the show voters liked (or were co-erced into voting for) would be of interest after the TV Show ended. However, One Direction proved (by accident, not through Syco’s “amazing skill” – they were a true YouTube sensation) that an act who didn’t sway voters could still satisfy their post-show aims. Since then, Ella Henderson has shown that they can take an act not particularly loved during her time on the show (and long forgotten by most) and launch her as a successful pop act.

    From this, it seems that the Music Division backed off last year – Tamera seemed to start as Plan A for the Music Division, failing, then actually managing to stay in for her last few weeks by winning over the voters who shied away in the earlier stages – the lyric-forgetting was undoubtedly genuine and resulted in her becoming an underdog of sorts before she left. She was still signed and will be their next ‘Ella Henderson’ style launch in 2015.

    What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think the Music Division are as involved now – whether Andrea or Lauren wins is of little concern to them. They’ll sign who they want (from the Top 6/7) and effectively start from scratch.

    Which means that we need to look more closely at the Show Producers intentions – we’re down to only 3 girls, which benefits Lauren/Lola/Fleur and we’re down to only 2 acts who can handle uptempo, which benefits Fleur and Stevi. The boring white males are all targets at this point (because if they were the Top 6, that would be boring TV).

    We can’t read too much into previous years, where Syco Music believed an act needed a Top 3/4 finish to be a viable pop product in the ‘real world’…

    Sorry for the ramble.

    • EM

      Hi Kermit, you’re not bang on with a couple of your points. While you’re right that there is tension between what is good for the tv show and what is good for the record company the ultimate boss of both divisions is Syco so decisions aren’t taken in isolation.

      Also the success of runners up is much longer established than One Direction. It was there in the show that gave birth to X Factor, Pop Stars. Liberty X were arguably more successful than the winners Hear’say.

      Gareth Gates went on to success after Pop Idol and at least from X Factor onwards all finalist were signed to Syco who had first refusal over whether to exploit then as an artist whether they won or came last.

      G4 were runners up in series one and managed more success than winner Steve Brookstein.

      As a *very* rough rule of thumb the show has gone
      Early rounds: get rid of the cannon fodder, keep in the novelty/interesting acts and the best talent
      Middle rounds: lose the novelty acts and the remaining fodder
      Late rounds: get the final preferred acts into the top 3/4

      That makes interesting viewing all the way through as the watchable/talkable acts perform and then the tension increases nearer the final.

      And it means the record company part of the deal is more or less happy with the outcome too

      • lolhart

        EM, I thought that Syco only got first refusal on signing acts after Alexandra Burke’s year. I remember that Simon Cowell was miffed he couldn’t sign JLS (they went with Epic). It seems to me that it was the following year that the manipulation was cranked up a gear coincidentally.

        • EM

          It’s all a bit complex and obviously I don’t know the exact detail but I believe everyone is signed up until 3 months after the show. The top 4 are signed up longer. During the 3 months Syco decide whether to sign the act for longer or not. The JLS story varies but in one version of it Syco turned them down. So they signed to Epic, which is run by Sony anyway…

          They also sign a management contract which appears to be longer term, although there doesn’t appear to be a link between the management company and the show.

  • Heisenberg

    With all this talk about donuts, you’ve got to ask yourself one question…

    http://goo.gl/7z2rBA

  • Heisenberg

    These are domain names registered via Ascio Technologies, Inc in relation to selected current Syco artists:

    onedirectionmusic.com
    ollymurs.com
    little-mix.com
    unionjofficial.com
    ellahenderson.co.uk (ellahenderson.com taken)
    ellahendersonmusic.com
    jahmenedouglas.com
    tamerafoster.com

    Of the remaining acts, only the following domain variations are also registered via Ascio Technologies, Inc:

    steviritchie.com
    jayjamesofficial.com
    paulakister.com
    andreafaustini.com
    lolasaunders.com
    stereokicks.com

    Surprisingly, the domains below are available to register right now:

    fleureastmusic.com
    fleureastofficial.com
    andreafaustinimusic.com
    benhaenowmusic.com

    Speculative Conclusion:

    If Simon is to be represented in the final then it looks like Jay or Stevi.

    Then – Paul or Andrea (no surprise).

    Waiting in the final – Lola and Stereo Kicks.

    • EM

      Nice sleuthing! The lack of Ben related sites might be revealing or it might be that his surname is difficult to spell so they have plans for a domain that’s easier to get.

      Interestingly benhaenow.com is owned by an “entrepreneur” from Hartlepool who appears to have bought it when Ben appeared on the show – maybe he’ll be selling it on.

      It looks like fleur owns her own site fleureast.com – easy to solve if she does well.

  • Henry VIII

    Interesting. A few I checked were registered to NetNames just before the series aired but it didn’t give the ultimate owner. Someone who knows something about domain registration could find out more.

    Maybe the the ones not in your list, that weren’t registered at the end of August to NetNames, eg Lauren or Ben, were just bought earlier and were unavailable.

  • caz

    That’s the perfect background music for that scene:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBv0aW5jMNg

    😀

  • caz

    oops. that was meant as a reply to the post with the picture of Simon and Stevie in the Restaurant.

  • Jessica Hamby

    For this week Jake and OTY are the obvious targets. Lola knows this is her last chance so will be under immense pressure. Will almost certainly blow it. May break down in tears and get sympathy if she does. Also the much mentioned Stevi ballad may have an effect. An’t see anyone else in the firing line.

    Doubtless ramp / deramp for future elims will also occur.

  • Martin

    Do we think stevi will legit get this ballad? It would be a risk, does anyone actually want to see that?!

    We’ve had a distinct lack of novelty mash ups so far this year. I want a Halloween megamix, dammit.

  • We are due a star voting leak after this weekend I would say

  • EM

    Re Stevi ballad : did he not say something like “I’d like to get through Halloween week and sing a ballad” the insinuation being he’d do a ballad after Halloween week rather than on it?

  • David Cook

    I think he said something on the lines of ‘if I get to Halloween week I’ll do a ballad – I promise’ the inference being if people voted for him to get that far he would be doing a ballad this week.
    In a similar vain on SCD did Judy Murray not say if she got as far as last week, both Andy and jamie would be there in the studio to watch as if it was some form of enticement to vote for her.

  • either way if he does sing that one – then there is no way he is going home this week .. it will only take a passable interpretation to get enough extra votes from the British public to avoid the bottom two. …

    My concern is as to how bad is Jack doing (or not as the case may be). TPTB are making us think he is doing badly by naming him 3rd last but equally he could be polling 1st!

    We know OTY are polling badly, but they are due a bounce – and could get it if they do Monster Mash, which they are very familiar with. This will also be highly significant – if they do anything else then they are being cast adrift, but if allowed to do Monster Mash then it seems they are being allowed to bounce.

    Song choices are key before betting this week – could this be the “shock” week where we lose Lola, Paul or Jay ?

  • Jumped on Jack while I could still get2/1. I think they aid an oty bounce in order to get him out

  • David Cook

    I suspect when they put Jack through they thought Stereo Kicks would hoover up all the votes which may have gone to Jack and that he would be quite easy to get out. It hasn’t quite worked out because in the first two weeks at least they were so poor. Last weekend maybe people did switch votes from Jack to Stereo Kicks. If so will it be repeated this week? I’ve tentetively backed Jack to go this weekend, as I do think that TPTB will want Jack out ASAP now. But I think the performances of Stevie, OTY and Lola also need to be watched carefully this weekend.

  • EM

    Just putting it out there that a shock elimination would be very helpful in terms of press and ratings right now… Jay, Lola, Ben… All would cause the desired shockwaves

    • lolhart

      If they want to go down that route, Lola would be a good choice. Cheryl would act suitably outraged and Lola would probably get very emotional. Ben or Jay wouldn’t have the same reaction. TPTB wet dream scenario would be a Laura White where a perceived underdog like Fleur wiped the floor with Lola in the sing-off.

  • Lenny

    If Lola botches it this week, could well be the end of the road for her. While I think Jack is the most likely target, there’s plenty of fodder left out there, and as mentioned, a shock elimination is due.
    I got in on Jake last week at a reasonable price a couple of days before the show, I don’t see anything to tempt me yet.

  • Vülker

    I can see Paul’s odds shortening on the elimination market, a bit too early to jump on the “shock elimination week” bandwagon?

    I personally can’t see Jack, Stevi and OTY getting the boot just yet, agree with most when they say it’ll be Paul, Jay (or even Ben!) and Lola if she botches it yet again to get the ax.

  • Heisenberg

    Simon & Stevi – Harvester photo gallery:

    http://goo.gl/KfCiKV

  • Jessica Hamby

    It is getting a bit prwdictable but are you sure OTY can expect a bounce after that travesty on Sunday?

    I would suggest that a shock eviction doesn’t get new viewers but it keeps it interesting for the ones they already have. To tell the truth I’m losing interest myself and tempted to give it a miss this week. Having said that, Jay and Ben probably have fans (don’t know about Paul) so it’s going to be hard to to take those votes away in a single week. Paul’s old skool soul schtick is a bit dull so of the three I would think he would be the most likely to go. Also do the really want to lose Lola or OTY when there are so few women left?

    So if a shock is on the cards then imo Paul is the most likely but I’m not sure one is. I still think it’s OTY, Jack or Lola – although of course the show could change that.

    • Martin

      OTY’s bounce depends if tptb allow it, in my opinion. They worked against Steph and she had a ropey bottom two performance. OTY were much worse. That said, they’ve had an extra week in the competition and seem to have a few fans knocking around.

      I think the boys will be the targets this week. From a casting point of view we could do we losing Paul, Jack and one of the male overs before they start targeting Lola or Fleur. Stereo Kicks are coming off a bounce so it will be interesting to see their treatment – anything less than glowing, motivational praise from all four judges may see them in trouble.

      At this point, having not seen song choices, I’d peg Jack for elimination. I’m going to guess that he’s polling pretty well at this point, so all the guns will be out Saturday night.

  • as i mentioned previously , the biggest pointer for OTY will be in the song that they are allowed to perform.

    Monster Mash means that TPTB will let them bounce.
    Anything else and I fear they are going the same way as Steph.

  • Stu

    I think the acts who are definitely safe this week are: Ben, Andrea, Paul and Lauren.

    That leaves Fleur, Jay, Stevi, OTY, SK, Lola and Jack.

    I think TPTB are going to still push for Stevi this week since he is the only joke act left in the competition. A lot of the acts left in the competition sing ballads/mid-tempos a lot of the time so losing Stevi this week wouldn’t be good from a casting point of view.

    Only The Young are due a bounce but if they are given the same treatment as Steph then they could easily be leaving this week. Would the producers really want OTY around to the detriment of SK? Being the only group left in the competition is clearly an advantage. The audience can get more invested and familiar with just one group than having to remember all the names from all the groups. Also, OTY aren’t really needed as a back-up in case Stereo Kicks really do flop with the public. Louis is probably the only judge who is okay with having no acts left in the competition before the latter stages.

    I don’t think the judges are ready to give up on Lola at the moment but I feel that if she messes up again this week then she could find herself in the bottom two. I don’t think she is polling well at all.

    With three great performances behind her, I don’t think Fleur is vulnerable THIS week. Even just one “okay” performance will be enough for her to escape the bottom two. She’s building up a solid fanbase and is topping/scoring high on a lot of the online “favourite act” polls. I’m sure producers are going to try their best in pushing her into the final. The show would be a much more boring place without her.

    That leaves Jay and Jack. I still don’t think Jay is being favoured by the producers despite the pimp slot two weeks ago. However, I do think he has a fanbase from his pre-lives performances and the fact that he’s a handsome father who used to be in the navy. However, an early slot with a poor song choice could easily put him in the bottom two. With Jack, I think he isn’t polling great but the producers didn’t want a Jake/Jack bottom two last week with the survivor bouncing this week. Maybe Jack was put on later to ensure he was safe last week so now this week he can be put on in slot #2/#3 with the bus coming his way?

    I definitely think Only The Young and Jack are the targets this week but the producers will probably let OTY bounce IF they can get Jay in the bottom two with Jack. Lola is a possibility if she messes up again.

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